The armed St. Louis couple at the center of a June standoff with a crowd of Black Lives Matter protesters outside their home was charged with felonies on Monday, according to the city's circuit attorney.
St. Louis Democratic circuit attorney Kimberly M. Gardner said she is bringing felony charges against Mark and Patricia McCloskey for brandishing weapons at protesters who gathered outside their property. She accused the couple of trying to intimidate protesters by pointing firearms at them during the ordeal, which was captured on a viral video.
"Today my office filed charges against Mark and Patricia McCloskey following an incident involving peaceful, unarmed protesters on June 28th," Gardner said in a statement. "It is illegal to wave weapons in a threatening manner at those participating in nonviolent protest, and while we are fortunate this situation did not escalate into deadly force, this type of conduct is unacceptable in St. Louis."
Joel J. Schwartz, who is representing the McCloskeys, said the charges were unwarranted because the crowd trespassed on the couple's private property and even destroyed the gate to the private street the couple lives on. He said the McCloskeys are protected under Missouri's defense-of-property law.
"The charges filed today against my clients, Mark and Patricia McCloskey, are disheartening as I unequivocally believe no crime was committed," Schwartz said in a statement. "I, along with my clients, support the First Amendment right of every citizen to have their voice and opinion heard. This right, however, must be balanced with the Second Amendment and Missouri law, which entitle each of us to protect our home and family from potential threats."
Police seized the guns the McCloskeys used in the incident last week.
The couple's actions have become a political lightning rod, sparking condemnation even after they voiced support for the Black Lives Matter movement. Others have defended the McCloskey family. On Friday, President Donald Trump hosted the couple at a virtual campaign event.
Gardner said her motivations in charging the couple were not political. The day before she filed charges against the McCloskeys, her office charged a Black Lives Matter protester with assault after he allegedly attacked people praying in front of a statue of King Louis IX.
"We must protect the right to peacefully protest, and any attempt to chill it through intimidation will not be tolerated," she said. "As I mentioned in my initial statement on June 29th about protecting the rights of protesters, this was not the only disturbing incident that occurred the same weekend."
Schwartz lamented the heightened focus the incident has received, saying that people were attempting to "try this case in the media."
"Given the heightened attention focused on this matter due to the current political environment, I don’t believe it is prudent to comment any further, at this time, or to try this case in the media," he said.
Gardner said she would prefer to pursue a diversion program for the couple, rather than jail time. Schwartz said he will defend his clients against the allegations.